Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wild dogs under my skirt - Tuisata Avia

Went to the finals of the Auckland NZPoetrySlam on Friday night. What a pleasure to hear Tuisata Avia read this poem. This poem has such special meaning for me and to experience it read by the poet, herself, was an unbelievable experience. Thank-you Tuisata Avia XX

Wild dogs under my skirt - Tuisata Avia

I want to tattoo my legs.
Not blue or green
but black.

I want to sit opposite the tufuga
and know he means me pain.
I want him to bring out his chisel
and hammer 
and strike my thighs
the whole circumference of them
like walking right round the world
like paddling across the whole Pacific
in a log
knowing that once you’ve pushed off
loaded the dogs on board
there’s no looking back now, Bingo.

I want my legs as sharp as dogs’ teeth
wild dogs
wild Samoan dogs
the mangy kind that bite strangers.

I want my legs like octopus
black octopus
that catch rats and eat them.

I even want my legs like centipedes
the black ones
that sting and swell for weeks.

And when it’s done
I want the tufuga
to sit back and know they’re not his
they never were

I want to frighten my lovers
let them sit across from me
and whistle through their teeth.

(Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, 65-66)

retrieved from: 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Broken Light - Nick Williamson

Remember the street
light I broke with a fluke
from my shanghai? You had me

upstairs in a flash
pants round my thin ankles
paddling my raw bum.

I can see the view
from your bedroom
window out over the buffalo

grass where we flew
kites across the broad
grey sea to Tiri Tiri

Whangaparoa and beyond
before I closed my eyes
to it all and hitched south.

Last night we cast your ashes
on the buffalo hill. Flash
apartments stare out where

once our tall house swayed
through the cold evenings.
New lamps burn in the street.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Thursday, December 25, 2014

To death - Ian Wedde

Death takes them all, that’s why
We never see it. Death’s never in
The picture. But everything we see, we see
Because death has. Death took the pictures.
Death looked at Chloe whom the poet

Begged not to run to her mother. Chloe
Ran into the oblivious arms of death.
Quintilius lies in the sleep that goes on
Without ever ending, and the music has faded away
That could have restored blood to the veins of the shade

Death saw. Lydia no longer
Wakes up to hear the sound of gravel thrown
Against her shuttered windows in the night.
Death pictured what lay behind the shutters
And Lydia grew old on the journey between

Her chamber and the dark street where death waited.
O passerby, do not refuse a few
Handfuls of sand to cover up the corpse
Of Archytas. It may be you who needs these rites
Some day, when death has viewed you as he did Archytas,

Who counted all the uncountable grains of sand
On the lonely beach. Death pictured my mother
And my father on the Picton foreshore, cheek by cheek
Under Gemini, twin sons unborn, tinkle
Of jazz from the ferryboat. And death looked at their sons.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Semi-Kiwi - Brian Turner

The barn roof needs painting
and the spouting is ruined.
Likewise the roof of this house
in which we live, borer here,
rot there. Im neither handy
in the great Kiwi DIY tradition,
nor monied, which rather leaves
us up shit creek without a shovel.
I grub to find what Stevens called
the ‘plain sense of things’
and come up empty-handed
more often than not, but
I’m a dab-hand at recognising, 
if not suppressing, self-pity,
and I can back a trailer
expertly, so all is not lost.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Te Whiti and Tohu - Elizabeth Smither

On the last morning of his life
Te Whiti fed corn to his pigeons.
Tohu was buried on top of his coffin
smashed in a dozen pieces.

Tohu had his left hand middle finger
shot away by a bullet. Te Whiti’s
right hand middle finger was torn off
by a millstone. They married sisters.

At Tohu’s death a canoe-shaped cloud
with a figure lingered for three days.
Te Whiti spoke of ko manawanui: forbearance
the canoe by which we are to be saved.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ranfurly - Richard Reeve

Season of farmland reduced to its knees, blistered hills
genuflecting to the clear. In almost everything
drought has disclosed itself to the wind-hushed mind;
the udders are cracked, a gate bobs like a fallen
soldier in the stanched centre of a paddock. There is a nothing
here that forgives, ground into the habitual seepage
of something’s split head: gulls pick the otherwise
ignored mammal flapping on the road, a dead insect’s
slashed wings sway over the tar like an orchestra.
And yet there can be no forgiveness. It is always but never
now where barbed wire fences are balked by the sun,
the sky hissing through popped staples, ‘almost
but never’. And then at night, under dried-out stars, 
rain features in a pantomime: swallowing the earth.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rose and Fell - Chris Price

Moist geometry unfurls.
          Dawn flushes the birds
from their silence
— hectic petticoats trimmed
          with disappearing mist —
and there, under a shaggy hem
          of pines, the monster Grendel
stealing home, mouth full
          of pinking shears.
His rough palm grips the bruised
          root of a plant torn
from a mountainside
          releasing scent of a more
legendary bloom.
                              His pelt
glistens, the girl’s words
          trapped moths
in his uncomprehending ears.
Wings of flowers
               fall and star
the path behind him
          as he travels
swiftly over the ground
          breathing     breathing.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Bit Late, But Still - Vincent O'Sullivan

I would like to talk with kindly Sister
Gabriel, with nervy Brother Remigius,
about eternity, say. I would listen
more attentively than ever I did
in the room with the high square windows
in Surrey Crescent, or the long prefab
above the gully in Richmond Road.
I would listen, old instructors,
as you began the story I always
longed to hear. I’d watch one of you turn 
your plain silver ring as you did
when you told us simpler stories.
When even a child thought, How
handsome she is, how wonderful
if we could see the colour of her hair.
And the other, that considerate man
martyred daily in the fifth form’s
colosseum, how good to see you dab,
again, like Louis Armstrong, your
perfect handkerchief, ease your stiff
collar in the summer heat – to hear
you report, ‘It is even better, boys,
Than any of us imagined.’ The palm
and the crown as certain as the next
bell. To hear you both talking
of that would be something. And something,
I suppose, in its sad, distant way,
to say even this — how good it would be.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Tyre Shop - Bob Orr

It begins every morning —
I’m sitting at my desk trying to tap into inspiration
but really I’m just waiting for the tyre shop man to show up —
when he rolls a cigarette I might just roll one too
I notice like me that before anything else he drinks coffee
we’re neighbours I guess you could say
when he winds up the roller doors it’s like the first act of a play.
On the pavement on each side of him
the tyres are stacked up like black donuts
but when they spin in the wheel-alignment machine
they become the dark rings of invisible planets.
Does he know how intrigued I’ve become with these mysteries?
The tyre shop man bear-like in blue overalls
lumbers about in front of the tyre shop’s cavernous dark.
One day I’ll tell him that I too have struggled
to get words to align. To work out their balance
their weight. The true measure of their rhyme.
But later I watch as the sun subsides
through the gum trees in the park at the back of my flat —
all of a sudden so big that not even they can keep it held up.
A wild orb of redness tearing itself apart
ripped from its axle breaking open the branches.
A little while later like a wheel cut from crystal
the moon will lift out over the great emptiness and silence
of Eden Park’s huge stadiums. The other poem may or may not ever
be written but this is one for the tyre shop man — oh
stranger and neighbour. My accomplice
my mentor
                    and my muse!

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Disjointed on Wellington Railway Station - Peter Olds

Where the night ends & the pallid day begins
several dirty old groaners lie & stand around
the railway station. One sleeps, a boot under
his head, a plastic shoulder bag clutched to his
belly, his pants half down exposing a white bum . . .
I sit on a kauri bench & light up a Capstan,
place a boot on my rolled-up sleeping bag
& a free hand on top of my canvas pack.
A skinny man with a battered nose drops down
beside me, requests a smoke — his red eyes
unpicking my duffle coat, travelling over my
tennis shoes to the tailor-made cigarette in my hand.
‘Non-filter,’ I say —
‘Better than nothin’ his reply.
I light him up & give him half of what’s left of
the pack (about five) which he tucks away on the
inside of his overcoat, then runs a hand over
his smooth grey hair — the only tidy part of him.
Two mates stand off talking with another guy:
secret laughs, hands in pockets, knowing nods.
An air of deliberate disjointedness. Last night’s
close shave. An agreement to rendezvous
at an early opener later. Nervous like stage-fright
children ill at ease in a moneyed world . . .
They produce a bottle of sherry, which gets my mate
off the seat like a shot — but they don’t want
to give him a drink.
Seems he played up last night, allowed himself
to get done over by the boys — took a lot of shit
on himself. The sight of him turns the others away —
seeing themselves in his snot-smashed face, blubbery
lips & puffy eyes.
They drink the sherry, smiling, rolling back on flat
heels like heroes having come through a horrific
night unscathed.
Another man in cowboy hat joins them, all belly
& beard, carrying a guitar. Wears moccasins — long
grey frizzy hair poking out from under the hat’s
brim, an intelligent twinkle in the eye.
But when he opens his mouth & speaks his previous
demeanour changes from something strong & sure
to something weak & gone. His speech practically
One asks the cowboy where he slept last night & he
somehow conveys ‘Here’ (at the station). He gets
the poor bastard look . . .
Suddenly, they take off on separate paths (in case
they’re followed) toward the city centre, to meet up
later for tea at an all-night shelter.
My mate with the cigarettes tucked into his chest
waves a gloved hand (but not too revealingly) &
disappears in a swirl of railway grit . . .
The next time I see him (on Courtenay Place) he’s
battered more than ever, looking like he’s been
rolled. Clothes ripped, hair dishevelled, wild pale
eyes, paranoid pallor — charging apologetically
through the clean crowds heading God knows where
from God knows what.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ode to Te Whiti-O-Rongomai - Gregory O'Brien

‘A system of water-supply and the installation of electric
light has brought Te Whiti’s pa into line with the most
advanced ideas of municipal development.’
Mr O. T. J. Alpers, 1902

‘Te Whiti was a prisoner at Opunake for a short time, and
the buttons coming off his trousers, volunteers were
called for the work of sewing them on again. I was given
the important job.’
Mr J. C. Hickey, Opunake Times, 22 March 1927

Te Whiti o Rongomai, the great bearded god
of electricity beams down on you
and shines approvingly and flickers
roundly and blows
the occasional fuse. But the lights of Parihaka
stammer onwards
into the new millennium. All those years like box-thorn
or gorse grown up the flank
of you, as we sit at your feet, studying the scriptures of circuitry, the wiring
of habitable towns, the falling light of comets and
errant stars. Here, I applaud the aching limbs of your
fife and drum band,
you — their conductor — in your bowler hat with its wind-battered raukura.
I praise the light
their disciplined music sheds on both you and the descendants
of the Thames Native Rifle Volunteers.
Like you, I can imagine the Opunake Hotel public bar
crammed ceiling-high with loaves of bread
anticipating a siege, long engagement, the possibility
of reprisal,
a half million warriors flowing like lava from your mountain.
But instead, a quiet morning —
Taranaki lost in clouds, after a night of electrical storms, fragments
of meteors, the cool vacant debris
of space. Also like you, I am worried about the health
of my family, descended as I am
from one J. C. Hickey, a man, by some accounts, responsible
for the introduction of box-thorn, gorse and wire gates
to the Taranaki. A notable brawler,
a one man travelling circus,
who famously fist-fought any person, Maori
or Pakeha and, after your arrest, Te Whiti o Rongomai,
upon whom fell the task of sewing new buttons
on your trousers. One version
has it that lots were drawn as to which constabulary member
landed ‘the important job’. Another version, that this man’s brother
had taken a Maori wife and the family connection
rendered him appropriate. Either way,
the passage of this small needle through your trousers
was the one detail of the invasion
he chose to remember when interviewed for the Opunake Times,
aged 80, in 1927. No mention is made
of his brawling tendencies after 1881, although a propensity for
civil disobedience later came to light
when he became the first citizen to run livestock
on the Opunake common, his twenty five head
of cattle successfully evading not only the bylaws but a
marauding ranger.
Not that I would presuppose a pacifism on his part,
perhaps at most a more
reasonable nature, cut but only slightly of your cloth, Edward,
or Eru-eti as you were known.
And as you were a bird once, ruru or native owl, and your friend
Tohu an albatross,
so my great Irish grandfather was known as — an irony that would not
have been lost on you — Cockatoo.
Watching the years trundle past, attended by
what beliefs we can muster
and this ever-present disbelief — what you might ask, has
become of us, Te Whiti o Rongomai?
We replace our gods like light-bulbs — only the current is
constant. And what of your illuminated province,
all darkness and hail
storm, across which I have led expeditions
into history books — in which I find you, your eyes
which have known the flash of lightning but seldom
the photographer’s bulb. They search me out, Te Whiti o Rongomai
while the god of bad weather and dissolving stars
studies the calm ocean of your brow, the peaceful
furrows of your face. He studies the shadow
of a boy running from the wharenui, hands clasped over
his ears, to escape the deafening roar of
the poi, swinging from the long arms of your many sons and
daughters. A line of roaring propellers.
Later, the women join in a haka
to flatten the soil, raise the mountain.
The view from the grave, as you know, is a long, undulating
one. Elevation a concern only
for the living and their business. They gather above us, as we speak:
aeroplanes, their bellies so crammed with phosphate
they can hardly take off. But there is a richness you bring to the soil
which cannot be dropped from a height.
All this we have seen in our lifetime: cables buried under sea
and earth, explosions of gases
in the atmosphere, waterspouts, satellites, the infinity motif
of the circular milking shed.
But there is another grid, laid as a blanket over your province:
one of fife bands, poi dances
your descendants gathering around a teapot the size
of a small room, just as the pa are placed
around Maunga Taranaki. If only the sky, the ever-present
sky, was a sponge capable of soaking up
whatever suffering we offered it, or a fog in which the lesser gods
of war and anger might be dizzied
and lose their way. The mountain climbs the mountain
track to reach its own
summit, sifts through relics of itself:
a box of bayonets wrapped
in wax-paper, a children’s hut
of stacked cannonballs,
each native feather of each living bird, stitched
into the mountain’s cloak.
Bowler hat and feather, feather
and bowler hat
Te Whiti, last year when a meteor was reported
flying above the Southern Hemisphere
I knew it would be drawn to your mountain. And sure enough, it broke up
over Maunga Taranaki.
Te Whiti, we share these flaming and extinguished stars
just as we share brass bands, certain Biblical
co-ordinates, a sense of disbelief and this recurring
belief. I have stood on the floor of your wharenui, where
your quiet room once was — the building itself burnt down
years after your departure
not by electricity but by an earlier form of light
and warmth. Leaving only a concrete floor-plan
your walls and roof now every star and falling
star and starless night
since then. And it is your wiring that keeps the heavens
radiant. In another sense, the source of the light
outlives even you — an electrical lamp
at either end of your grave.
As you were once, asleep and awake, so you lie. The mountain
our dark tent too, all black air and
thunderclaps and climbers
falling forever downwards.
But you wouldn’t want to make
too much of your mountain,
Te Whiti, even if the electricity of your province remains
light years ahead of the rest of
the known universe, because it is also true that farm machinery has
drowned out your wood-pigeon, your
ruru. So what of this affinity, then, that which
we feel.
Perhaps because we were all diggers, a river of shovels
edging towards the sea
accompanied by the stitch, stitch,
stitching of Irish peasant hands
as people of mercy, love and a facility
for making whole, we now sit
by your trouser-leg and
sew, as the descendants
of Cockatoo Hickey will sit
for all time
attending each miserable thread
and the stitch, stitch
stitching of this conciliatory

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Moon Poem - James McNaughton

I hung out one night with a one-legged poet
in a campsite at Windjana Gorge, in Western Australia.
I’d seen him the day before, in Tunnel Creek,
where he was worrying about keeping his stump dry,
and leaning on his girlfriend. He was much more at ease
on the mattress in the back of their Combi
rolling joints and dispensing beer from the bar fridge.
I can’t remember how we got talking,
or his name or his face, but I remember his motorbike accident —
and all the compensation money going on speed and pizza.
I didn’t read poetry then, but his stuff sounded
good to me, the Leonard Cohen poems
even better. The one that really stuck, though,
was a poem by a mate of his about two guys in a truck
tearing along some lonely road at night, speeding off
their nuts. The full moon was described as ‘the original Aspirin’.
I thought that was great, a revelation, and all his mate’s poems were great,
and Leonard Cohen’s were great, and some of his were . . . good.
He got pissed off as the night went on — felt my enthusiasm
was misdirected, so I stumbled off to my car.
I was about to leave next morning when he hopped over
in his black Y-fronts. He was covered in bright tattoos:
parrots, budgies and macaws. ‘Is that a budgie?’
I asked, pointing at one. He said it was a budgerigar.
I almost said, ‘Wrong kind of birds, mate, there’s no tits.’ But something
stopped me. I just said, ‘Makes a nice change,’ and he said ‘Yeah,’
and we shook hands.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Monday, December 15, 2014

Elephant Riding - Jan Kemp

Climbing up
the back of an elephant
you spring into
the toehold of its tail
held in place by the mahout
grab the ropes
strapped round its belly
& haul yourself up.
She rises
from buckled knees under you
moves like a ship
you’re high
under the hanging ashoka leaves
as you flow forward
her fly-bitten ears grey sails flap.
she flings the odd young-leaved branch
into her mouth
with her triumphant trunk.
You want to scratch
the top of her stubbled head
tell her it’s like riding a whale
they’re both your favourite creatures
you’d like to know their languages
couldn’t she speak
just a little of hers?
But the mahout down on the road
rubs thumb & fingers together
furiously you nod
yes pay, of course we’ll pay
thinking, if he doesn’t
accept our offer, let me down
I’ll be stuck up here forever
riding New Delhi streets
with the mahout’s boy
or it’ll suddenly have had enough
trumpet & fling me off or bolt.
I’d never have paid
till he let you down

you said, as we watched her
join the diesel-belching traffic circle
my ship of the jungle
dirty & grey
non-caparisoned, gentle, knowing, female
working animal.
In India, they say
a woman is beautiful
when she walks
like an elephant.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Watch - Anna Jackson

Elvira says look! there’s a clock
on my watch!
There’s a clock on my watch too.
Now I can watch the time
objectively, as if it weren’t internally
clocking the time with every cell,
every beat of my heart.
Who beats my heart?
I can’t beat time, just watch
the clock.
Elvira says, I am a dog cat,
woof meow, woof meow.
Tick tock,
watch clock.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Saturday, December 13, 2014

365 x 30 - Dinah Hawken

Lying on a bed with you
for at least
the ten thousandth time
I remember the dream
I had last night.
You and I and the young woman
you are going to marry
are in a shop
choosing a jacket for you
to wear at the wedding.
She chooses an absurd one
with taffeta panels on the front
and full gathered sleeves.
I see that your old one
the one you are wearing
is plain and smart. It suits you.
In the dream I do not speak
or act — I am there
as your friend, being reasonable
about the marriage —
but there is a distinct
holding in my shoulders
as if our days together
are taking a shape
that I am about to reach out
and raise
above all else
a double-handled jar
in which water turns to wine.
for Bill

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Lay Sister - Bernadette Hall

The lay sister slides her hands
through holy water. Chops
onions, carrots, celery
in that order. Splits
blocks of wattle. Her hands
are fat on the axe handles.
‘Good God,’ says the Bishop,
slipping another smoke ring
round the crystalline throat
of the Portuguese sherry
decanter. ‘That woman
would knock you down as good
as look at you!’ The lay sister
is as rough as guts, speaks
Irish rather than English,
sleeps through the mission,
eats by herself in the kitchen.
Sometimes however
they do let her answer
the door and it’s ‘Excuse me,
Reverend Mother, there’s
a piano in the parlour’
(that’s the given code word
for a man) and she’s not able
to keep herself from laughing
then, imagining knocking
a fine old tune out of him.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fresh Orange Juice - Chloe Gordan

She thinks of you as she watches the man outside
the Kingsland church whose clothes
are as white as a Turkish scarf.
This morning there is mist, thick
over the city and to the Bombays, probably to
Turkey and you and the blue umbrellas
on the terraces and the geraniums like
flying kisses and fresh orange
juice for you — only ever fresh
orange juice because you never did
like the taste of coffee.
There is Turkish coffee on this menu.
But her eyes pass it by
for something Italian and a
muffin, and when the waiter brings her drink
she stirs it and the teaspoon burns
her tongue.
Across the road in Kingsland the man all
dressed in white — except for red
flecks that stand out like geraniums on his
coverall — pulls an empty pig from a van full
of trotters, slings it over his shoulder and walks 
with it into the meat shop.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The footstool - Leigh Davis

6 a.m. and Monday came
Tidal change to flood a footstool and make of it
A sundial, quadrangular book of hours and fretted terrier
By the angle and the time what has come over you?
Point and I will follow Little One
Down the implications of your shadows I can see
Tuesday falling
Sunday gated as it waits
Foretelling each creation day and after that
Where moonlight depth of field lagoons you
And only you, alert and barking
My faithful footstool, forecast and depiction

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where and When - Allen Curnow

Where the big crowds come, the street,
the stadium, the park where the young
go crazy to the beat
and the heated bubble of the song,
thoughts running loose, I tell
myself, the years will have blipped past,
one by one the lot of us here present will
be gone into the dark. Someone’s last
hour’s always next, right here and now.
Deep under the bark of that great oak
my father’s lifetime’s told in rings, which grow
to outlive me too. Gently as I stroke
this child’s head, I’m thinking, ‘Goodbye!
It’s all yours now, the season’s crop —
your time to bud, and bloom, while my
late leaves wither and drop — ’
And which day of which year
to come will turn out to have been
the anniversary, distant or near,
of my death? Good question. The scene,
will it be wartime, on a trip,
or at home or in some nearby
street, crashed coach or a ship-
wreck that I’m to die?
Cadavers couldn’t care less where they rot,
yet the living tissue leans (as best it may)
toward the long-loved familiar spot
for its rest. Mine does, think of it that way.
Freshly dug. Young things, chase your ball.
Nature’s not watching, only minding,
by its own light perpetual
beauty of its own fact or finding.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Monday, December 8, 2014

Unfinished Love Theorem - Kate Camp

Like light
it can travel in waves
or lines
depending on the circumstances.
When I first noticed it, it was travelling in waves
and I could just see its sail pop hopefully up
on the horizon now and then
as it was keeling, or gibing,
or doing whatever brave ocean craft do
when the water is a little lumpy.
I admired its buoyancy, its neat fittings,
the way everything a person could need
was stowed in its purpose-built compartments.
I liked the way it was rigged, and aligned
with particular stars and magnetisms.
Now I’m in amongst it, I find it is travelling in lines,
the underground veins of a railway, hidden,
signposted, never drawn to scale on maps.
It is moving all sorts of things about,
taking good folk to their work, taking them out
and home to their rumpled bedrooms.
I admire its secret progress, how it can speed
or lull you on its beating window,
how it spills you out up silver
stairs and it’s unexpected sun, or night lights
shining, seeming so bright, so very surprising.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's Greece - Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

It’s Greece. It’s been confirmed. But where
     the hell is Greece? Patu wants to know.
          He’s ignorant, never got past Standard 6 — 
his dad couldn’t spare him — had to get up
     at 6, milk the cows, and after milking
          do all the other chores. ‘Greece,’ I tell him,
‘is close to Gallipoli,’ and his eyes light up.
     He knows the name, because his Uncle Ru
          died there, fighting the Turks. We agree
that anywhere is better than being here
     at Amiriya, buggered by route marches,
          plagued by flies, heat and sand — sand blowing
everywhere. But the pyramids, my God!
     A million slaves died building them, they say.
          They are indeed great marvels, but give me
Hikurangi any day. ‘We go to Greece,’
     says Freyberg, ‘to defend the birth place
          of culture and learning,’ and it gets me
wondering why I’m here at all so far
     from my run-down farm, my sick people,
          and a meeting-house in need of repair.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Movie - Alan Brunton

I like dinner music.
I like water in a clay jug.
I like it when the water rains on me.
I was just a tourist in those mountains. I drove wildly down steep
slopes through gorges and cascades. After the brutal descent, I
arrived at a belvedere with a breath-taking view.
I will tell you something: In 1897, three fragments of broken jug
were discovered in Egypt. They were 3000 years old. Poems were
painted on the fragments. One of them is
                    the poet smells his lovers shirt . . .
In 1951, French Egyptologists found twenty-eight more pieces of
the same jug and the rest of the poem was restored
                    that sniff of sweetness instantly
                                        transports him to the South Seas 

O Rio dos Poetas
I met a sage in a state of bliss
who subsisted on a glass of milk each day.
Below him stretched a great emptiness
carved out of existence, the head-waters
of the Mondego River.
A short distance away was
the birthplace of the ‘discoverer’ of Brazil.
My father died in December.
With my brothers I carried him
to the low house reserved
for dead soldiers.
When it was my turn to speak
I recalled driving though green paddocks
in his Chevrolet,
the road driving into my eyes.
It was the first day of the holidays.
We got lost in the traffic
and separated from the cortege
so we stopped for sandwiches and beer
and played billiards in a club.
A band was set up to play
but after a dispute with the management
they took their gear away.
I hope I never
I hope I never
see that part of Auckland again.
Language is my neighbourhood.
I live in Alphabet City.
The people who live here open their hearts to the sun.
Today was the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of a reading
system for the blind,
the day the sputnik fell back to Earth.
My horoscope says:
‘Writing frequently will help you sustain a relationship with
someone at a distance.’
At night I watch the moon and imagine exciting places
over the horizon. Only a fool does not see that the vast
industrial economies are temporary. I say too much. My
throat is infected with words. At the country hospital, I am
treated by a beautiful doctor. That evening we drink wine
from the valley on the balcony of the hotel. Look, she says,
the moon is moving into the distance, three centimetres
each year, which is the speed at which fingernails grow!
We sing revolutionary songs until all hours, drinking to
friendship between our two countries. In her language, the
word for ‘Sunday’ is ‘resurrection’. I leave the following
This existence is not original.
          Like love itself,
the universe is mostly smoke and mirrors,
          I am I,
the beginning of illusion.
          You are you,
the centre of confusion.
          I write to you alone at night,
speaking into the silence.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from

Friday, December 5, 2014

Loneliness - James Brown

I was just sitting there, wandering lonely as a cloud, when
— honest to heaven — looking out of the window
I saw Elvis. I know I know, but honest to heaven
it was him — or my name’s not James Brown.
There he was, just walking across the quad in no particular hurry,
briefcase under one arm, an airy spring to his gait,
his five inch DA glistening in the breeze.
But right off you could tell he was going places;
he didn’t look left or right, just ahead where he was walking.
Mid-period Elvis. His leather jacket passed within five feet of me.
And I wasn’t alone, plenty of students saw him too. An older one —
probably a third year — went up and shook him by the hand.
Young women clustered in groups, glancing and whispering.
A couple of likely lads snapped their fingers. There was a palpable
happiness, for once you’ve seen Elvis you are never alone.
He was whistling softly. Not a curl, more an expression
of frankness was pursed on his lips as he passed (I noticed
the first signs of comfort eating just starting to grace his jowls).
I couldn’t quite make out the tune, but now I hear it as
the fadeout to ‘(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding.
It was autumn, the odd lost leaf left dallying in his wake
as he turned the corner by the silver birch trees.

Sharpe, I. (Ed.). (2001, January 1). Best New Zealand Poems 2001. Retrieved from